Coronavirus impact: You may have to ‘pre-book’ your office seat

As a part of the cost-saving measures taken by corporates, seat sharing by offering weekly shifts to employees could become the new norm among India Inc.

May 28, 2020 / 02:33 PM IST

For the past two months, 34-year-old software engineer Gaurav Upadhyay has been working from home in Delhi. Even as the country enters the last leg of the lockdown to deal with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Upadhyay’s employer which is a digital marketing firm has informed him that office seats won’t be fixed anymore and that he needs to ‘pre-book’ it.

“This sounded like a novel concept to me since all of the 200 staff in our office had regular assigned seats. Now, we will have a phased shift system where we report to the workplace about twice or thrice a week. So, if we turn up to work without prior notice, we may not find a place to sit,” he added.

As a part of the cost-saving measures taken by corporates, seat sharing by offering weekly shifts to employees could become the new norm among India Inc. This would mean that the additional space saved by reducing the seating area could be either leased out or given back to the owner in case of a rental property.

Also read: Live updates from COVID-19 outbreak in India

“It could be like a co-working scenario where the additional space could be occupied by employees or some other firms or could accommodate more people from other floors of the same organisation. It helps us save costs between 30-35 percent annually though the logistics of ‘who comes when’ has to be handled,” said the head of human resources of a mid-sized private bank.

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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

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There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

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Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Sources told Moneycontrol that companies in sectors like digital marketing, content management, e-commerce among other sectors may opt for this arrangement.

The caveat here is jobs with face-to-face interactions like bank branches, stock broking firms, treasury services or IT operations where data sensitivity is to be maintained would not be part of this structure.

Ananya Tiwari, an independent human resource consultant helping firms in workspace management said that mid-sized, large and small companies have come forward to explore new ways of working.

“This would include shutting down smaller offices (with three to four employees) and making employees use public spaces like coffee shops with reliable internet connections to complete their daily work. Real estate costs are saved through this,” she added.

In a location like Andheri in Western Mumbai, the monthly rent for a 1500 square feet premises could be between Rs 1.8 lakh to 2.5 lakh. Letting go of half the office premises or accommodating more people through phased seating can help cut costs.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.
M Saraswathy
first published: May 28, 2020 02:33 pm

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